By Ian Burley
17th September - 2001
Earlier this year Matsushita (which owns the Panasonic brand), announced it was striking an alliance with none other than Leica, a star name from the annals of German photographic heritage. This mirrored the success of Sony’s alliance with German lens specialist, Carl Zeiss. Today the first fruits of Matsushita’s alliance with Leica were revealed.
Matsushita announced two Panasonic-branded ‘Lumix’ digital still cameras that exhibit a Leica-esque appearance and combine Leica-designed zoom lenses and Panasonic electronics. The two models include the 4 megapixe DMC-LC5 (above) and the 2 megapixel DMC-F7 (below). They are scheduled to go on sale in Japan at the end of October.
The high-end DMC-LC5, has a 3x zoom lens and a 2.5-inch LCD viewscreen with 200,000-pixels. The camera also offers both manual exposure and manual focus capability. Meanwhile, the more basic DMC-F7, has a built-in 2x zoom lens, and a 1.5-inch LCD. The DMC-F7 weighs in at just 150g without its batteries or memory cards – the latter being SD (Secure Digital), as you would expect from Panasonic these days.
A Leica DC Vario-Summicron Lens is fitted to the DMC-LC5, while a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens is featured on the DMC-F7. Panasonic claims its electronics know how has contributed to a fast shutter response. The DMC-LC5 has the ability to shoot a maximum of 4 frames per second in up to two seconds at maximum picture resolution. The DMC-F7 can shoot a maximum of 5 frames in 1.25 seconds at maximum picture resolution
According to Matsushita, the market for digital cameras is growing rapidly, with a forecast of approximately 20 million units sold worldwide this year. Clearly, Panasonic – which has so far not had a serious attempt at establishing itself in the digital still camera market – feels it’s time to follow the example set by Sony a couple of years back.
While Carl Zeiss has served Sony well as a quality brand enhancement, Leica represents the Rolls Royce of compact camera makers. Potentially, Leica is a brand worth more than CZ. Whether Lumix can be a sum greater than its parts remains to be seen.